Joyner Lucas on dropping a new album, working with Will Smith and Mark Wahlberg

Joyner Lucas on dropping a new album, working with Will Smith and Mark Wahlberg
  • Hip-hop artist Joyner Lucas spoke to Business Insider about his new album, "Not Now I'm Busy."

  • Lucas detailed the making of the project, including tracks with Jelly Roll and the late DMX.

  • We also discussed his experience acting in films alongside Will Smith and Mark Wahlberg.

Last week, I spoke to hip-hop artist Joyner Lucas ahead of the release of his second studio album, "Not Now I'm Busy."

The interview went down in a meeting room at the Manhattan office of The Orchard, the entertainment company that distributed Lucas' debut album, "ADHD," in 2020.

With his manager and business partner Dhruv Joshi, Lucas discussed the making of the new album, its featured appearances, and Lucas' path as an independent artist.

We spoke at length on three tracks: The single "Best For Me," a meditation on supporting a loved one through a battle with addiction, featuring a hook from Jelly Roll; "Three Little Pigs," a "Children's Story"-like figuration of police brutality; and "I Didn't Go," which features the late DMX.

We also got into Lucas' recent turn as a film actor, including his work alongside "older brother" figures Mark Wahlberg, in the 2023 Apple film "The Family Plan," and Will Smith, in the coming "Bad Boys 4" sequel.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

"ADHD," self-released debut album, went Gold. How did the strategy behind that inform this one?

Joyner Lucas: We honestly treated it differently. That was at a different time. Covid was happening. Because Covid was happening, everybody was in the house, you know what I'm saying? So, a lot of "ADHD" was rushed. Towards the end of it, it got rushed a little bit because I was prolonging it for so long.

Dhruv Joshi: A year and a half.

Lucas: A year and a half. And then when Covid happened, everybody was in the house just listening to music. So I knew it was time to drop.

'Cause it was March 2020?

Lucas: Yeah, it was right when it happened. We were stuck in the house, and it was like, "Yo, I gotta get this album out now because everybody in the house just listening to music. There's nothing else for people to do, but to listen to music. So, while I got people's attention, I gotta just drop this shit." So I finished it up, and I dropped it. And I mean, now, obviously, we're not in a pandemic anymore. And I'm in a different place in my life, you know what I mean? So, the project's really treated differently.

Jelly Roll and Joyner Lucas
Jelly Roll and Lucas shooting the "Best For Me" music video.Brandon Barnett

"Best For Me." Seems cosmically timed to make some noise. How are you seeing that move so far, a few days out?

Lucas: It was a really amazing move. It couldn't have been a better move, you know? I love making music with Jelly. He's an amazing person, really dope guy to work with. I had a lot of fun doing that record, doing the music video and stuff. Again, it's a much-needed concept, and I think that that record's gonna help a lot of people. That's what I'm all about.

Rest in peace, DMX.

Lucas: Yessir.

Spiritual moment on this shit.

Lucas: Yep.

Moving. How did that come together?

Lucas: I got to spend some time with him. Great guy. Just something that I've been holding for a long time. Pause. And, you know, just felt like, wanted to put it on this album. You know, I got my brother Symba on there. And pieces just connected.

"Three Little Pigs." Dope as hell. Shoutout Slick Rick.

Lucas: Yeah. Shoutout Slick Rick. For sure.

Is that along the lines of how you would frame that conversation with your kids? 'Cause it's a tough conversation.

Lucas: It is a very tough conversation. Yeah. I'm actually coming out with a "Three Little Pigs" book. Like ASAP. So I'll be showing them the "Three Little Pigs" book. That's how I would teach my kids about the Three Little Pigs, by showing them the book. That's just a real raw — pause — uncut conversation. And showing 'em the book, there's no curse words in there. Water guns. You know, it's very kid-friendly. But it's one of those things that when they get older, they'll see the correlation between pigs, police officers, you know what I mean? Maybe not even something they would understand now, you know, but it's like, they'll get the story at the very least.

Look back on it when they're grown and say...

Lucas: And say, "Oh shit, that's genius."

And a commercial product, like, it's about to be for sale, or just for the video?

Lucas: The book will be for sale.

That's dope.

Lucas: We should have it... When are we getting the first copy of it?

Joshi: Soon. I'm trying to get the press right now.

Lucas: 'Cause we need it for the video.

Joshi: Also, mobile app as well. Game. So, "Three Little Pigs" game. It's coming out.

That's cold.

Joshi: A mobile app. Where the wolf is running, and the pigs chasing him. Just like "Subway Surfer."

Joyner Lucas
Lucas on the set for "Best For Me."Andy Pollitt

You said on Twitter you gave yourself "until age 28."

Lucas: Yeah.

To get with this shit, for real. Uh, you gave yourself more grace as an actor. How's that transition been for you, to acting?

Lucas: It's pretty cool. It's dope. I feel like, what's interesting, though, is I didn't have to like get in the whole independent movie world and work my way up the ladder until I got into big movies. I started with movies that had $200 million budgets. I started in movies with Mark. I started in movies with Will. That to me is legendary. To start at the top, you know what I'm saying? So now, I'm gonna be picky with this shit right here.

That's the way to get into it, if you can. And, uh, what type of game has Will Smith imparted to you?

Lucas: What type of what?

What type of game, as an actor and rapper, has Will Smith imparted? In the time you've spent with him. Any advice he's given you.

Lucas: "Don't be afraid to fail," is one of his biggest things. I think he's really big on failing, and a lot of his advice is based off of mistakes that he made, through things that he doesn't want to see me do. He's really a mentor for me, for real. He's like an older brother. And that's how our relationship is. Every time I see him, he want to try to beat me up.


Start punching me and shit. I swear.

First time they met, he like body-slammed him.

Lucas: First time I met, he body-slammed me. And now every time I see him, he always want to square up with me. I'm like, "Bro, why you always trying to beat me up, bro?" He was like, "I don't know, bro. Something about you."

Nah. He said, "Nobody can get out my grip."

Lucas: Pause.

Joshi: He grabbed him like this. [Grabs own wrist, to indicate how Smith grabbed Lucas' wrist].

Lucas: Pause. C'mon.

Joshi: He was like, "Man, I can get out of that." And [Smith] was like, "No, you can't. There's no way." "Trust me. I can get out of it." Flipped him on his ass. It was crazy.

And Mark Wahlberg did you even crazier, when he threw a knife into your eye.

Lucas: Yeah. Mark Wahlberg is another great guy. Really like another older brother to me. You know, me and him, we have a really genuine friendship. We talk about everything. He wants me to be involved with as much things as possible as he has going on, down to the Municipal thing, movies. You know, I think he really is just excited that somebody's coming out from where we came from, that he can stand behind. Pause.

You said Google's fucking up your net worth, and they got mine fucked up too. You click on it, and it takes you to the IRS.

Joshi: Oh wow.

I'm joking. I'm joking.

Lucas: I had to pay the IRS $2 million. That was probably the most gut-wrenching feeling.

You did mention that on the track.

Lucas: It felt like I took $2 million, and I flushed it down the toilet and burned it. Thinking of all the things I could have did with that. I could have bought so many properties with that shit, bro. That shit crazy.

Let's set the record straight for Business Insider, though. You're doing all right. You're building wealth.

Lucas: I mean, I'm nowhere near where I know that I will be. But yeah, I'm great. I think even when I get to where I will be, there's still another benchmark, right? It's like you're never satisfied. No matter how much money you make, you're never gonna be satisfied. There was a time where, when we was on tour, and we was making $400 or $500 a show, at the time it was like, "Yo, if only we can make like a thousand a night. We'll be killing it. We could just do a show every day, that's $365,000."

Joshi: There's a path.

Lucas: Right.

Joshi: There's a pathway to the money right now.

Lucas: And then it's like you're selling a little bit of merch, you know? And it's like, "Yo, if we can make this plus this, we doing like $1,500 a day, bro." We're geeking on the bus, like, "Yo, 15 a day. That's crazy."

Joshi: Do you know what though? I don't know if the excitement was the money part of it, or the fact that we're starting to see money come out of the music and the art. You see what I'm saying?

Lucas: Right.

Building on it.

Joshi: Just the excitement of that like, "Holy shit, we've been doing this for free. Basically."

Lucas: And now we're starting to make money.

Joshi: And now it's making a little bit, and it was exciting. "Oh shit, we're making some."

That perpetuating income. The streams.

Lucas: Right. When you start making more money, then you got more responsibilities, right? Then you need more money. So it's really never enough, to be honest with you. You got billionaires right now that feel like they need to make more money, right? We counting they pockets. Like, "Damn, how you could have a billion dollars?" Like, "You know what I would do with a billion dollars?" Right? But if you think about a billionaire who has a billion dollars, think about all the responsibilities he has, and what his expenses are, right? So if he's like a billionaire, he probably got like $50 million in expenses a month, you know what I'm saying? Or at least $20 million a month in expenses or whatever, right? And that's crazy.

It's proportional. And you got a family to feed.

Lucas: Right. You got more responsibility. More money, more problems, more responsibilities. And it's really never enough.

Read the original article on Business Insider